Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Meet the Engineers of Tomorrow: Michael Frank and Steven Naleway

Research Expo is this Thursday, April 16. So far in our Meet the Engineers of Tomorrow series, we’ve introduced you to two of the engineering graduate students that are presenting a poster at this year’s event: Oscar Beijbom, with a poster titled “Automated annotation of coral reef survey images” and Vineet Pandey who’s poster is titled, “Connecting stories and learning objectives increases participant motivation in online discussions”.

In this, our final post leading up to Research Expo 2015, Michael Frank and Steven Naleway describe the wonders that lie at the intersection of biology and design.

Michael Frank
“When I first started in Joanna McKittrick’s lab, I was really interested in materials science,” said Michael Frank, materials science and engineering PhD student at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “But she kept saying to me, ‘When are you going to pick your animal?’.”

Everyone in the McKittrick lab has to have an animal – meaning they should each be studying and analyzing the structure and mechanical behavior of natural biological materials like shells, bones, teeth and tusks for design applications.

“Professor McKittrick often collaborates with Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” said Frank. “We had the opportunity to participate in a research cruise. It was there that I met Kirk Sato, who studies sea urchins – I finally had my animal.”

According to Frank, sea urchins are fascinating because of their versatile mouthparts – an apparatus termed Aristotle’s Lantern – which allows them to persist at different depths.

“Aristotle is known for his philosophy, but many people don’t know that he also wrote several books about the natural sciences,” said Frank. “In one of these, he described the mouth parts of a sea urchin as ‘a horn lantern with the panes of horn left out’.”

It actually looks more like “The Claw” from Toy Story. Urchins have conquered most sea habitats because their mouthparts allow them to be incredibly precise when taking in food, much like a claw is able to grab an item out of a vending machine.

“The idea for my bioinspired design project came to me one night during a local news broadcast,” said Frank. “It was an update on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, and I noticed two things: first, that the apparatus used to collect samples from the surface of Mars is a shovel and second, that the rover was having some issues surveying the planet to collect samples because the wheels were punctured by sharp rocks. If we could create many smaller rovers that could collect samples in a manner similar to the way urchins take in food, it would enable a much more efficient and precise sampling method.”

Frank and his colleagues outsourced the prototyping of their design to a team of students in the MAE 156 capstone design course for seniors. He and his colleagues then attached the bioinspired sampler to a rover for testing on the beach and again with Mars simulant provided by professor of structural engineering Yu Qiao’s group.

Frank hopes to be able to see NASA adopt the design. He says that the Rady School of Business at UC San Diego has opened his eyes to startups and entrepreneurship, and he’d like to see it through.

“The apparatus is very efficient because it opens as it extends and closes as it returns,” said Steven Naleway, also a materials science and engineering PhD candidate at the Jacobs School of Engineering. “That’s one motion instead of two. NASA could really increase the efficiency with which the Mars Rover collects samples by incorporating the design.”

While Naleway is an author on the poster (titled “Microstructure and bioinspired application of Aristotle’s Lantern: Urchins from the Sea to Mars”), he has his own bioinspired research – box fish armor.

Steven Naleway
“Most fish decide to articulate their scales, but the box fish doesn’t,” said Naleway. “Why is that? Instead of articulation, which allows for complete coverage of the body by eliminating interfaces, the boxfish employs a complex interdigitating suture pattern in between its scales (known as scutes). I am interested in the mechanical advantages these sutures provide.”

In addition to their work on Aristotle’s Lantern, Frank and Naleway will both present posters at Research Expo on freeze casting – a physical process using the directional freezing of water to make porous scaffolds similar to the spongy layer of bone and a number of other biological materials. Naleway will present a poster titled “Easing the fabrication of bioinspired composites through the use of clathrate hydrates in freeze casting” and Frank will present on “Magnetic freeze casting: porous scaffolds bio-inspired by bone”.

Don’t miss these great posters – there’s still time to register for Research Expo at www.jacobsschool.edu/re

No comments:

Post a Comment